The only problem is that Russell Westbrook is the one that’s writing it.
He’s at it again, and while the root of the incident itself is relatively minor, the bigger picture looms large over the Oklahoma City Thunder’s championship quest.
Teams as cohesive and talented as OKC die from internal – not external – wounds, and as long as Westbrook continues to ride like lighting, they will continue to crash like thunder.
Another microscopic on-court spat has led to another atomic public outburst.
It was nothing more than basic basketball gone wrong. A “miscommunication,” if you will.
With 8:53 to play in the third quarter, Westbrook decided that he wanted to take advantage of the undersized Grizzlies guard, Jarryd Bayless, by backing him down into the post. Thabo Sefolosha, a very instinctual player, was left watching Westbrook work – wide-open – on the other side of the court. Just as every player has been taught to do since high school, when Sefolosha’s defender turned his head, he cut to the hoop – the correct play – but ended up suffocating Westbrook’s room to work, and forced him into a rare 5-second violation.
Bad Westbrook made it very clear that he is not fond of 5-second violations.
To be fair, Good Westbrook has been working hard to develop his post game, and has been frequently trying it out in game situations this season. I will never discredit a player for risking his precious stats to improve a much-needed facet of his game (Dwight, are you reading?).
A 25-point lead early in the second half would seem as good a time as any to get some repetitions in, right?
But to say Westbrook reacted poorly to the call would be generous. He pouted like a child, spiked the ball and scolded his teammate.
Justifiably, Sefolosha didn’t take well to it.
After all, he was being chastised for something he believed to be right and barked back. He was reacting as if this was not the first time he and Westbrook had gotten into it. A pouty Westbrook continued his tirade on the bench with assistant coach Maurice Cheeks — as well-respected a figure that you’ll find in this league — before slamming a chair and walking back to the locker room.
This is nothing new, but once again revives the question these Thunder have worked so hard to recant: With Westbrook at the helm, does this team have championship poise?
Kevin Durant, quite possibly the frontrunner for league MVP, the undisputed leader and captain of the Thunder could not have simplified the situation any further: “It wasn’t the first. It’s not going to be the last.”
With all due respect, Kevin, “attitude reflects leadership, captain.” If Westbrook is this vulnerable during an already decided regular season game, how is he going to fare in the heat of battle against the Clippers, Spurs or Heat in the playoffs. He was able to keep it bottled up last year, but this proves his erratic antics are not buried in the past.
Durant, the captain, needs to be in control of OKC’s narrative, not Westbrook.